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Transgene Says Experimental Cancer Drug Has ‘Enormous Potential’

Transgene SA, a French biotechnology company, is “very confident” about the prospects of an experimental cancer treatment now in clinical testing, Chief Executive Officer Philippe Archinard said.

The compound, called JX594/TG6006 has “enormous potential” and study results that the company hasn’t yet made public “are very, very promising,” the 51-year-old executive said in an interview in Paris yesterday. Transgene acquired some rights to the product in September from San Francisco-based Jennerex Inc.

“We could have, as a company, a top line that explodes thanks to this single product,” Archinard said. The treatment may garner annual sales of more than $1 billion from an indication against liver cancer in Europe and other areas where Transgene has rights, “and that’s only one indication in one region,” the CEO said.

Trangene, based in Illkirch, France, today said revenue last year climbed 20 percent to 14.1 million euros ($19.7 million), helped by an initial payment from Novartis AG, which last year acquired an option on rights to Transgene’s experimental TG4010 lung cancer vaccine, and a higher research tax credit.

The full-year loss widened to 34.2 million euros from 27.3 million euros in 2009, with research and development costs climbing by about 30 percent to 42.5 million euros.

Research and development costs will rise further this year, on higher expenses for clinical trials, said Archinard, declining to elaborate. Recruitment of patients should begin in the middle of the year for a mid-stage clinical trial of JX594/TG6006 as a second-line treatment for liver cancer.

Cash Consumption

Transgene spent a net 28.8 million euros in cash last year, excluding the amount raised in a stock sale and the money it spent to invest in Jennerex. The company expects cash consumption of 40 million euros this year. It had cash, cash equivalents and other financial assets of 180.3 million euros at Dec. 31.

Transgene is under pressure after Roche Holding AG last month ended an agreement to license the rights to the French company’s experimental vaccine for cervical lesions. Roche dropped the project because of “its own strategic reasons” and not because of data about the drug, Transgene said in a Feb. 22 statement.

Shares in the company have lost 20 percent since the announcement, reducing Transgene’s market value to 373.6 million euros. The stock shed 41 cents, or 3.4 percent, to 11.80 euros yesterday.

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